BUY BAT PLANT SEED – Tacca chantieri


If you are looking to buy seed from the bat plant, you are in luck. The 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop now has bat plant seed in stock as part of its standard range. Just click on the links to be directed to the new and improved seed shop.

The incredible, yet stunning looking Bat plant is so unusual in its shape and design that it almost looks unreal. Growing wild in the tropical forests of the Yunnan Province, China, this gothic plant can reach a height of up 36 inches! It grows best in a well-drained, slightly acidic soil and although it appears highly exotic, this beautiful plant is in fact hardy down to -3 degrees Celsius!

The bat plant prefers warm humid temperatures, but will happily grow outside in a container so long as it is placed in a sheltered position protected from the strength of a mid-day sun. In fact, you may be able to grow it directly in the ground if you live in a climate where frosts are unheard of you could consider growing bat plants permanently outside, planted directly in the ground. However, it would still be wise to start if off in a container and place it in a proven spot provided it receives enough shade from direct sunlight.

However, it may need to come under protection over winter if temperatures are likely to dip below freezing. To keep on the safe side, bring it into the warm as soon as temperatures start dropping below 6 °Celsius. During this cold period, keep the compost just on the moist side or even let it dry out between watering as you would do for an orchid.

GROWING FROM SEED

Sow bat plant – Tacca chantieri seed into plug trays filled with a good quality John Innes ‘Seed’ compost, then give them a further light covering of compost or horticultural grit. Gently water them in, and then seal the tray into a clear polythene bag placing it on the window sill of a warm bright room. Make sure that the tray is out of direct sunlight. Don’t hold your breath because germination can take anywhere between 1 and 9 months! However, this can be greatly improved by allowing the seed to soak overnight in warm water before sowing.

Once the bat plant seedlings are large enough to handle they will be ready for transplanting into individual pots. Using a good quality ericaceous compost mix, add 10-20% horticultural grit or perlite to it for extra drainage. TIP. During the growing season, these young seedlings must be watered regularly, and because they thrive in humid conditions give them an occasional misting too.

While growing bat plants from seed will give you the opportunity to produce a variety of colour forms, you can also propagate bat plants from root cuttings from two year old plants onwards.

POTTING ON

When potting on a bat plant use a good quality ericaceous compost mix. However, it is advisable to add 10-20% horticultural grit or perlite to it for extra drainage. Drainage is important where bat plants are concerned. If they are left in waterlogged conditions, they can be subject to a fungal disease which can attack the leaves - blackening them from the edges.

Note. Avoid re-potting unless there is a good 2-3 months of warm weather left. During the winter in temperate and sub-tropical zones, the bat plant will go dormant but it will not die back. However, it will die back to its rhizome if you overwater in winter when the plant is dormant. Water too much however and you will risk killing off the entire root system.

CARE OF YOUR BAT PLANT

To get the best flowering out of you bat plant you will need to keep it well fed with plant fertiliser. Osmocote is particularly effective otherwise use soluble high potash fertilisers. If your bat plant starts to dry out you will find that the leaves will quickly wilt, but don’t worry too much about this. If you catch it in time and give a quick watering, the leaves will bounce back with no obvious sighs of distress.

During the winter, watering will need to be reduced considerably, but do not allow the soil to dry out completely. To maintain the bat plant in best condition, move it to a mild, sheltered area such as a conservatory, then re-pot into a larger pot once new growth begins in the spring.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MILLIPEDE AND A CENTIPEDE?




Centipedes and millipedes often get lumped together as the same sort of creature ie. things that aren't insects or arachnids (spiders). While both millipedes and centipedes belong to the same overall family - Arthropoda, that is pretty much where the similarities end.

Centipedes belong to their own class – Chilopoda. The name originates from the Greek cheilos, meaning lip, and poda, meaning foot. The millipedes belong to a separate class, Diplopoda. Also from the Greek, Diplopoda means double foot.

So, what are the differences between millipedes and centipedes? To find out, they are listed below:


MILLIPEDES

1. Millipedes have short antennae.

2. Millipede's have two pairs of legs per body segment, except for the first three segments, which have one pair of legs each.

3. The legs of a millipede do not visibly extend from body and the rear leg pairs are in line with the body.

4. Millipedes are slow walkers

5. A Millipede will not bite you.

6. Millipedes are mostly scavengers that eat leaf litter and other vegetation.

CENTIPEDES

1. Centipedes have long antennae.

2. Centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment.

3. The legs of a centipede visibly extend from the sides of the body and trail backwards behind the body.

4. Centipedes are fast runners

5. A centipede has the capacity to bite and if you annoy it, it may well bite you!

6. Centipedes are mostly predatory creatures that will eat insects and other small arthropods.

One more thing!

Finally centipedes are 'carnivores' that have two modified legs that have large hallow claws that contain a venom gland, some species are quite poisonous. Millipedes are 'vegetarian' and do not have these, but instead can produce a foul smelling chemical to deter predators. This chemical can also act as an irritant.

What's in a name?

While the 'milli' part of the name millipede suggests that this creature possesses a thousand legs (mille is latin for thousand, hence millennium means a thousand years). In reality, a millipede doesn't have more than 750 legs.

Likewise, a centipede is supposed to have a hundred legs (from Latin prefix centi - meaning 'hundred'). Despite the name, centipedes can have a varying number of legs from under 20 to over 300! Strangely, centipedes always have an odd number of pairs of legs, e.g. 15 or 17 pairs of legs (30 or 34 legs).

THE WHITE BAT PLANT - Tacca integrifolia



Tacca integrifolia – more commonly known as the White Bat Plant - is one of the world’s most unusual flowering plants! It has a highly unusual flower arrangement that is held about 3ft high, but amazingly, the thick purple whiskers that emanate from within the flower are so long that they can sometimes reach the ground! Its top bracts consist of two spectacular dorsals - usually white and purple stripes -  each one about 8 inches wide! The true flowers are located at the bottom centre of the inflorescence and are reminiscent of thick, purple buttons!

As a native of Malaysia, the white bat plant prefers warm humid temperatures, but it will happily grow outside in a container so long as it is placed in a sheltered position and protected from the strength of a mid-day sun. In fact, you may be able to grow it directly in the ground if you live in a climate where frosts are unheard. In fact, you could consider growing bat plants permanently outside, planted directly in the ground. However, it would still be wise to start if off in a container and place it in a proven spot provided it receives enough shade from direct sunlight.

However, it may need to come under protection over winter if temperatures are likely to dip below freezing. To keep on the safe side, bring it into the warm as soon as temperatures start dropping below 6 °Celsius. During this cold period, keep the compost on the moist side or even let it dry out between watering as you would do for an orchid..

If grown from seed, your bat plant should start to flower after about two years growth, but within that there will be a surprise. With seed grown plants, variations in flower colour are regularly witnessed, producing purple or pure white bracts. On rare occasions bat plants can even produce flowers with white whiskers!

While growing bat plants from seed will give you the opportunity to produce a variety of colour forms, you can also propagate bat plats from root cuttings off of two year old plants onwards.

POTTING ON

When potting on a bat plant, use a good quality ericaceous compost mix. However, it is advisable to add 10-20% horticultural grit or perlite to it for extra drainage. Drainage is important where bat plants are concerned. If they are left in waterlogged conditions, they can be subject to a fungal disease which can attack the leaves - blackening them from the edges.

Note. Avoid re-potting bat plants unless there are still 2-3 months of warm weather left. During the winter - in temperate and sub-tropical areas - it goes dormant but will not die back. However it will die back to its rhizome if you overwater in winter when dormant. Over do it and you will kill off the whole root system!

CARE OF YOUR BAT PLANT

To get the best flowering out of you bat plant you will need to keep it well fed with plant fertiliser. Osmocote is particularly effective, but if you don't have any then use a soluble high potash fertilisers. If they start to dry out you will find that the leaves will quickly wilt, but don’t worry to much about this. If you catch it in time and give a quick watering, the leaves will bounce back with no obvious signs of distress.

HOW TO GROW A LAWN FROM SEED



If you want to grow a successful, quality lawn from seed then the first thing you will need to know is that it is ALL about the preparation! In fact the decisions you make before you even start to work on your new lawn can have a crucial effect on the end result.

With that in mind, first give some thought as to what you want from your lawn, not just for this year but for years to come. Do you want a square lawn, a shaped one, or do you want a lawn with flower beds cut into it? Will it need to be hard wearing or tolerant of shade?

A lawn will not need to be perfectly horizontal, but you'll probably want to avoid steep slopes otherwise you can end up with drainage issues - i.e. Dry at the top and damp at the bottom – which can result in moss or weed problems further down the line.

If you need to level out an area that is on a slope, it is usually achieved by raising the lower end of the slope with removed excess soil from of the higher end of the slope. That way, the slope is evened out with out the need to dispose of any excess soil.

However, it is important to remember not to mix up top soil with sub soil. Although it may seem a lot more work, the correct way to achieve this is to remove all of the top soil from the area that is being levelled, then backfill the lower end with sub soil taken from the higher end. Once completed, replace the top soil back over the whole area.

Unfortunately, if the ground has been levelled by more than about a foot you will need to leave it to settle for at least a year before seeding your lawn. Why? Because the ground will invariably sink over time and this will most likely be at an uneven rate across the whole of the area worked.

PREPARING THE SITE

The proposed area for your new lawn will need to be well drained. If the area suffers from damp or even periodic water logging, it may be necessary to lay either a soak away or drainage pipes under the soil. If drainage problems are not dealt with at this initial stage then you are only opening the door for plenty of work later on.

If the lawn is going to be laid around a newly built house, you can probably expect the builders to have buried some of their building waste in the garden – it is also likely that the top and sub soils have been mixed up.

Furthermore, if there is any builder’s sand left, do not be tempted to dig it in - you need 'sharp sand' to condition soil not 'builders sand'. Start by removing all large stones, blocks and any obviously non-organic rubbish from the surface.

A lawn will grow best on well drained medium loam. If this sounds like your soil then your preparation can be minimal, but if the soil is clay or sandy, you'll need to do more work.

With heavy clay soils, you should add sharp sand, and any well-rotted organic compost as this will improve drainage under the lawn.

With sandy soils, you should just add well-rotted organic compost as this will help to improve moisture retention under the lawn.

The top soil will need to be prepared to give a fine, workable tilth to a depth of 4 to 5 inches. If you are adding organic matter, you should aim for a minimum depth of 6 inches. If the area of the lawn is fairly small, it can be prepared by hand using a spade. For larger areas it is worth using a rotovator.

When starting to prepare the soil, it needs to be not too dry and not too wet. Start by digging or rotovating the whole area to the required depth, breaking down any large clumps of soil and remove any stones or rubbish you come across.

TIP. When digging, work backwards so you don't tread down the soil you've just broken up.

Having turned over the whole area and broken down the soil, add only half the sharp sand or organic compost that you need, and dig over or rotovate the whole area again. Once completed, add the other half of the material waiting to be dug in, and go over the whole area once last time.

Rake over the area to level it while removing any vegetation, stones or rubbish which may appear. Now leave the area to settle for a week.

If a lot of weed or vegetation appear in the first week, consider using a non-residual herbicide to kill them off. Carefully follow the instructions and leave the soil for the recommended period before proceeding.

Rake over the area again and remove any more vegetation, stones or rubbish which may appear.

Tread down the entire area. Start in one corner, then walk slowly across the soil placing one foot in front of the other. When you reach the other end, turn around and repeat until the whole area has been trod down (if the area is large, you may need more than one person!). The first time you do this, you'll probably find some humps and dips, remove these by giving the surface a light racking and repeat the treading down.

SOWING THE LAWN

To give your newly seeded lawn the best chance of creating a quality lawn, the best time to achieve this is to sow the lawn in the spring or autumn - depending on the weather conditions and temperature.

Sow the lawn on a wind free day, but just before you start sowing, give the area one last rake over Divide the quantity of seeds into two, (it is better to sow two lighter sowings rather than one heavy one). If the area to be sown is large, you can divide the seeds further. This will reduce the chances of covering three quarters of the area and finding that all the seed has gone!

Sow one covering of seeds while walking in one direction, and the second sowing while walking at right-angles to the first covering.

Lightly rake the seed into the top of the soil, you won't cover all the seed but try to cover about half. Once finished the area should not be walked on so you may wish to cordon off the area until the new lawn is in place.

AFTER CARE

Grass seed should germinate within 7 to 21 days depending upon the weather. If a dry period occurs then you may wish to water during this germination stage, use a gentle watering technique (a garden sprinkler or hose with a fine spray attachment pointed skywards) to keep the top of the soil moist.

TIP. Too much water applied in the early days can float the individual seeds into concentrations.

If possible, protect the area from birds and domestic pets. Chicken wire is ideal but probably impractical except for small areas. On larger areas, tin foil attached to string stretched across the area may help.

When the grass is about 1 inch high, gently roll the area with a light garden roller. Alternatively, if you have a cylinder mower, set the blades as high as possible and use this instead. If you have just a small patch of lawn, you may be able to get away with treading the area in the same way as was done before the grass seed was sown.

Avoid mowing the grass until it is about 3 inches high. After this first cut, lightly mow the lawn with the cutter set to about 2 inches. If you are not using a cylinder mower, you will still need to lightly roll - or tread - the area after the lawn has been cut.

Further reduce the cutting height of your mower with each subsequent mowing - and still roll after each mowing - but don't cut lower than 1 inch during the first season.

NOTE. Keep playing children and pets off the lawn for the first season, the first year grass seedlings are plants and need time to become established.

HOW TO USE CROP ROTATION ON AN ALLOTMENT




Based on an extract from ‘Practical Gardening and Food Production in Pictures’ – published in 1940

On allotments it is important to adopt some kind of crop rotation. The effect of rotation is to obtain a better yield from your crops and to avoid diseases which will attack said crops if they are continuously grown on the same piece of land. That said, onions are the only crop which can be grow on the same land year after year - provided that suitable fertilisers and manures are applied.

In practice, many allotment holders follow a two year rotation. Half of their plot is taken up with potatoes while the remainder is used for other crops. In such a case the operation is to simply rotate the crops alternate years, but the best method is to use a three year crop rotation.

By using a rotation of crops, the same piece of land will not carry the same vegetables in successive years. For convenience, cops can be divided into three groups.

1. Peas and Beans
2. Cabbage, broccoli and other brassicas, turnips and Swedes.
3. Root crops

Note. Lettuce, spinach and other salad crops can be treated as intercrops, while leeks, onions and celery can be placed anywhere, but preferably in the area where the brassicas etc are being grown.

Regarding fertilisers and digging, each area will of course need to be treated differently. In this way only one section (Root crops) will need to be double-dug each year, reducing the amount of heavy work required.

HOW TO GROW THE BAT PLANT FROM SEED – Tacca chantieri



The incredible, yet stunning looking Bat plant is so unusual in shape and design that it almost looks unreal. Growing wild in the tropical forests of the Yunnan Province, China, this Gothic plant can reach a height of up 36 inches! It grows best in a well-drained, slightly acidic soil and although it appears highly exotic, this beautiful plant is in fact hardy down to -3 degrees Celsius!

Growing bat plants from seed is relatively easy. Sow bat plant seed into plug trays filled with a good quality John Innes ‘Seed’ compost, then give them a light covering of compost or horticultural grit.

Bat plant seedlings
Gently water them in, then seal the tray into a clear polythene bag placing it on the window sill of a warm bright room. Make sure that the tray is out of direct sunlight.

Don’t hold your breath because - depending on light and heat factors - germination can take anywhere between 1 and 9 months! However, this can be significantly reduced by allowing the seed to soak overnight in warm water before sowing.

Once the bat plant seedlings are large enough to handle they will be ready for transplanting into individual pots. Using a good quality ericaceous compost mix, add about 30% horticultural grit or perlite to it for extra drainage.

 TIP. During the growing season, these young bat plant seedlings must be watered regularly, and because they thrive in humid conditions, give them an occasional misting.

During the winter, watering will need to be reduced considerably, but do not allow the soil to dry out completely. To maintain the bat plant in its best condition, move it to a mild, sheltered area such as a conservatory, then re-pot into a larger container once new growth begins in the spring.

HOW TO PROTECT FRUIT FROM BIRDS



An extract from ‘Practical Gardening and Food Production in Pictures’ – published in 1940

While this extract was written over 70 years ago, it is good to see that the fundamentals haven’t changed. Birds will still eat your produce and a fruit cage is still the best way to prevent them from scoffing the hard earned ‘fruits’ of your labour – sorry about that last pun. 

Replace hemp fish netting with a roll of inexpensive plastic fruit netting and you are on your way. However, scaring off birds by either firing guns or using small boys to walk around beating tins is no longer recommended as a garden solution.

Do you find birds troublesome? Most soft fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and currants are frequently damaged by birds. To avoid this, a fruit cage may be erected.

If you have any spare timber, a permanent one can be constructed for a small cost – well worth while when you think of the labour and the value of the fruit saved. Erect the frame work of timber and cover the whole with wire netting. Leave a door at one end, and make sure that this fastens securely so that the birds cannot get in through it blowing open.

A cage of a less permanent nature may be made from fish netting. A portable timber framework should be set up and hemp netting thrown over this. Care must be taken to see that the strips are joined sufficiently at the entrance to prevent birds getting through at this point.

When planting your soft fruits, remember this need for protection from birds and plant them near one another in a neat formation so that one cage will serve the entire quantity of soft fruit bushes.

Against a wall it is a simple matter to throw netting from the top of a fence or wall so that the netting hangs in front of but not touching the branches.

In large orchards where birds are troublesome and netting impossible owing to the size of the trees and cost of netting, various methods such as the scarecrow and hanging tins to frighten birds are tried. These are seldom much use. The occasional firing of a gun will help to keep birds away, or a small boy walking through the orchard beating a tin protects the fruit to a certain extent.

We should always remember that we welcome birds to help keep down insect pests and eat weed seeds provided they are not to rapacious, should we grudge them a small share of the fruit?

HOW TO IMPROVE DRAINAGE IN LAWNS




Lawns that suffer from poor drainage are usually in a poor state of repair. Poor drainage in lawns can be partly due to compacted soil, or by the lawn being laid onto a heavy/clay soil.

The roots of the grass require air pockets in the soil so that the plant cells within the roots have access to oxygen.

This oxygen is required for these cells to metabolise - without which the cells, and later the roots themselves, will die.

 Simply put, the health of your lawn can severely suffer in waterlogged conditions allowing moss and weeds to take a foot hold.

In extreme or prolonged conditions the moss and weeds will once again out-compete the turf.

The easiest way to improve drainage within the soil is by using a Hollow Tine Aerator - a simple device that removes cylindrical plugs of soil from the top few inches of soil.

Simply spiking the soil with a fork - or as in the short film above - a shoe made of nails will not do the job.
This is because the tine or nail simply pushes the soil apart to make a small gap.

Give it a day of so and a touch or rain, and the soil will expand back into place rendering the work (you have just previously done) useless!

Aeration through the use of a hollow tine aerator should be carried out on the whole lawn every 2-3 years, except in well used areas, such as in front of garden seats or regularly used grass pathways as these may require more regular attention.

Use in moist conditions in rows approx 4-5 inches apart.

Plugs will automatically eject as the tines are inserted into the lawn and these should either be swept up or left for top dressing.

TOP TIP. Sweep some sharp sand into the holes left by the hollow tine aerator to keep the channels open for longer and aid drainage.

BLOGGER TUTORIAL - How to resize photos on blogger



Blogger has recently changed the editing program they use for producing posts, so the once simple 'drag and pull' system or re-sizing you photographs has now gone for ever. Instead it has been replaced by some awfull set up that that refuses to do what you want it to do.

However, I have mastered its idiosyncracies and am willing to pass on the information.

1. You CANNOT click and drag you photos anymore. Don't try, even though it may look as though it may work - it won't! When down loading a new photo it will only sit where you left your curser so make sure you have clicked in the place before you down load it.

2. You new image will always start off in the centre of the post - however annoying that may be, but click on the photo and it will give a list of options just below it. As I prefer my main photos to fill the full length of my post I choose to click on the left option, then increase the size to large. Usually the X- Large option will too big and will remove one end of your photo.

3. For a perfect fit I am afraid you will need to edit the HTML code of your photo, but it is very easy once you know what to look for. Firstly click onto the Edit HTML tab on the top right of where you are writing your post then identify the code that represents you photo. It should look a little like this:

<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;">
<a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-kBGdvOLmzWY/TaBRseKsvDI/AAAAAAAADUQ/MfnnkGniCdM/s1600/image captions blogger.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; cssfloat: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="275" r6="true" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-kBGdvOLmzWY/TaBRseKsvDI/AAAAAAAADUQ/MfnnkGniCdM/s400/image captions blogger.jpg" width="325" /></a></div>

Luckily this code will allow you to adjust the size of the photo. The key features you are looking for are in this area of the code isolated below, noteably where it says height="275" and width="325" :

img border="0" height="275" r6="true" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-kBGdvOLmzWY/TaBRseKsvDI/AAAAAAAADUQ/MfnnkGniCdM/s400/image captions blogger.jpg" width="325" /></a></div>

All you have to do is change the numerical values for height and width so that it fits as per your wishes.For my own posts, I usually keep values of height="400" and width="500", however you will need to play with it a little to find out what fits your posts exactly.

BLOGGER TUTORIAL - How to add a live Traffic Feed to Blogger




When setting up a new blog from blogger you are basically starting off with a completely blank canvas. There are a myriad of widgets to choose from as well as far-too-many attractive pieces of code to add to your blogger template. Unfortunately, some of these may or may not end up destroying all of your hard earned work - especially if you've forgotten to save your original template before hand.

Of course, it would be so much easier if there was some kind of mentor who you could trust to give you the correct advice and point you in the right direction. That's not me, nor do I want to be, but if you are looking for a smart looking live traffic feed graphic then this one from revolvermaps is my personal favourite. Furthermore, I have done all of the background work for you so if you want to add the live traffic feed graphic that is currently spinning at the top of this post, all you have to do is this:

1. Click on to the design heading in your dashboard.


2. Click onto the linked heading of whichever 'Add a Gadget' box you deecide.


3. This will open up Bloggers 'Add a Gadget' list. Scroll down and click onto the + icon in the bottom left corner of the 'HTML/Javascript' box. Ignor where it says title the cut and paste the code that is shown in the box below. Then click the 'SAVE' icon in the bottom right corner.

Job done and enjoy your fancy new live traffic feed.

<div style="text-align:center; margin:0px; padding:0px; width:220px;"><embed src="http://rf.revolvermaps.com/f/g.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer" quality="high" wmode="window" allowScriptAccess="always" allowNetworking="all" width="220" height="220" flashvars="m=0&amp;i=5ddpgxj72xz&amp;r=true&amp;v=true&amp;b=000000&amp;n=false&amp;s=220&amp;c=ffffff"></embed><br /><img src="http://jf.revolvermaps.com/c/5ddpgxj72xz.gif" width="1" height="1" alt="" /><a href="http://www.revolvermaps.com/?target=enlarge&amp;i=5ddpgxj72xz&amp;color=ffffff&amp;m=0">Large Visitor Globe</a></div>

HOW TO CONTROL WEEDS IN THE LAWN



Given the right conditions, weeds will grow anywhere. They are by nature opportunistic and will quickly invade where suitable conditions arise. Unfortunately, this also includes any thin or weak areas in your lawn.

Image credit - http://www.marona.co.uk/
When it comes down to providing the ideal weed conditions in your lawn, it will normally come about through simple neglect or incorrect lawn management.

However, there may also be some underlying reasons that favour certain weeds such as a wet lawn, dry lawn, favourable pH, or lack of nutrition.

Irrespective of the reason why there are weeds in your lawn, there are only two effective methods of controlling them, either culturally or by the use of selective herbicides (weed killers), and fertilisers.

Cultural weed control

If you decide not to confront the possible underlying factors that can cause weeds to grow in your lawn, then your other choice is to pay out - year on year - for moss killers, chemical fertilisers and weed killers. While this chemical combination will only produce a short term effect, when applied correctly it will actually work.

Image credit - http://hopingnotcoping.wordpress.com/
So before reaching for the wallet, you may want to consider removing the weeds by hand - especially if there are only a few weeds that have made it through. Use a daisy grubber or slim width trowel to remove perennial weeds along with their tap roots - this method is ideal for the more pernicious weeds such as plantains, daisies, dandelions and thistles.

Furthermore, sticking to a good lawn maintenance program will also help to keep your lawn in optimum condition making it more difficult for weeds to get a foothold.

In severe case of weed infestation – and where the quality of the lawn is such that is unlikely to be restored to any sort of quality – you may need to consider removing the existing lawn altogether and starting again from seed or turf (just make sure the weed problem is properly solved before you start)!

Chemical control

In some cases the weed problems you can get in lawns will be too severe and widespread to make hand weeding a practical option. If this is the case then a selective weed killer may be your only viable option to control the weeds.

The most important question to ask is when should lawn weed killers be applied? Why, because in order to work effectively the active ingredient in the weed killer needs to be able to work its way down to the root of the plant so that it can be killed outright. This will only happen if the plants metabolism is actively functioning! Apply when the weeds are not growing and you could well have wasted your time and money!

Generally speaking, the ideal time for weed control us usually between April and September when both the grass and the weeds are growing vigorously. However, avoid applying weed killer during the height of summer as your lawn will effectively be dormant while it copes with the stresses of heat and probable lack off water. In addition, applying any horticultural chemicals during this period can result in a chemical scorch to your lawn.

TIP. For optimum results consider applying a nitrogen feed to the lawn about a week or so before you intend using a chemical weed killer. This will encourage a burst of strong growth which can dramatically help in the uptake of the weed killer chemical.. In fact many off-the-shelf weed killers can be purchased with a chemical fertiliser already as part of the mix – these are generally know as lawn ‘Weed and Feeds’

Whatever you do, DO NOT USE A GENERAL PURPOSE WEED KILLER ON YOUR LAWN. While it will effectively kill off your weeds, it will effectively kill off the grass in your lawn too. You must use a specific broad leaved plant weed killer so that your grass remains unaffected and the best way to be sure is to buy a lawn weed killer that is specially formulated to do the job.

HOW TO BUILD A DRY STONE WALL



Dry stone walling is an ancient craft that can take years of practice to do with any real speed and perfection. For professional dry stone wallers, a wall can be build with incredible speed, but for the rest of us there will be a lot of trial and error involved.

Provided you take your time and are not over ambitious, you should be able to produce an attractive and stable wall without too much effort. Just be advised that your hands and forearms will suffer if you over do it in the beginning!

Building Your Wall

Even though dry stone walls may lack the straight lines and vertical faces of a traditional brick wall, the base of your dry stone wall should still be laid to a straight line, and ideally on a well prepared footing

Mark out the area to be excavated for the footing using a garden line and pegs, then excavate a trench about 8 inches deep. Just ensure that the bottom of the trench is as flat as possible as you will be laying the foundation stones on it.

Choose large flat stones for each end of the trench, and infill with other large ones to form a firm base for the rest of the wall. Just don’t forget to put aside enough large flat stones to cap the wall, and also to act as tie stones!

Your foundation stones should not actually touch. Space them out about 1 inch apart, although this will of course vary. Fill the spaces in between with gravel, which will aid drainage as well as providing a firm base.

Lay the subsequent stones carefully, choosing a suitable size for each one, and trimming them down with a club hammer and cold chisel if necessary. Wherever possible, place two smaller stones over a large one and a large stone over two smaller ones.
Each time you have laid a couple of courses, lay a large stone across the full width of the wall every yard or so along. Such stones are called tie stones or bond stones, because they help to tie or bond the dry stone wall together.

Try to slope the stones towards the centre so that they form a shallow ‘V’ shape. You can use small fragments of stone to adjust the angle or to make an uneven stone more stable. Inevitably there will be cracks and crevices, but these can also be filled with rubble or small stones

The appearance of a dry stone wall is affected by the type of stone used. Whenever possible, try to use locally sourced stone as this will provide a far more authentic and natural look!

Batter Gauge

Your wall should also slope inwards towards the top, and the best way to ensure a fairly even angle is to make a Batter Gauge.

Simply nail three battens of scrap wood together to give a slope of about 1 in 12. When you use the gauge, place a spirit level against it to check that it is vertical.

Cap Stones

Use large, flat stones for the capping at the top. If these are heavy, do not attempt to lift them by yourself. Obtain suitable help and – if necessary – use rollers on a board.

Raising Heavy Stones

Don’t struggle trying to lift heavy stones to a height as this can easily cause a substantial injury. Use a strong plank on a stable support and then use a crow bar to move the stone on to rollers – lengths of steel pipe are suitable for this. This can still be hazardous work to do on your own, so always have a helper in case you lose control and drop the stone. That way there is someone around who can run off and phone an ambulance for you should you require one

How High?

Unless you need a wall to keep animals in or out, don’t try to build anything too high on your first attempt. A dry stone wall of about 3 ft is more than adequate for most purposes.

If you just want to make an attractive boundary wall then 2ft high may even be enough!

Just remember that extra height means extra costs, effort and time.For stability, the height of the dry stone wall should be about the same as the width at the base.

HOW TO GET RID OF MOSS IN LAWNS




Ok, you've got moss in your lawn and you want to kill it off. So why not put down some moss killer and do a proper job on it? Why? Because it will only grow back again! Unfortunately for lawn keepers everywhere, having moss in your lawn is just a product of your local environment. Put simply, what your lawn doesn't like -  the moss probably will. So if your lawn is struggling you can place a sure bet that moss is likely to be thriving. Remember the following guidelines:

Moss loves, shade, damp, acidic soil and poor drainage.

Lawns hate, shade, damp, acidic soil and poor drainage.

So, if you want to get rid of the moss in your lawn permanently, you will need to deal with at least one or more of the above environmental issues!

SHADE

Shade is the tricky one in the box, because to get rid of the shade you will need to get rid of what is causing the shade. Depending on what the obstacle is - your house for example - you could be onto a non-starter. But if is an overgrown hedge or broken-down shed you may be in a position to remove it (in the case of the shed), or lower it (in the case of the hedge).

If you cannot remove the obstacle responsible for causing the shade - and presuming there are no other underlying problems - you could always consider removing the existing turf from the problem area and then re-seed it with a lawn seed mix specially blended for use in shaded areas. Alternatively you could always extend your existing borders to encompass the shaded area - therefore eliminating the need to have any turf there in the first place!

DAMP

A damp soil is almost always associated with shade, but far easier to deal with. Lawns that grow on soils that are periodically waterlogged will be at risk from moss for similar reasons to that of lawn grown in shady areas.

This can be partly due to compacted soil, or by the lawn being laid onto a heavy/clay soil. The roots of the grass require air pockets in the soil so that the plant cells within the roots have access to oxygen.

This oxygen is required for these cells to metabolise - without which the cells, and later the roots themselves, will die. Simply put, the health of your lawn can severely suffer in waterlogged conditions allowing the moss to take a foot hold. In extreme or prolonged conditions the moss will once again out-compete the turf.

To improve drainage within the soil you will need a 'Hollow Tine Aerator' - a simple device that removes cylindrical plugs of soil from the top few inches of soil. Simply spiking the soil with a fork - or as in the short film above - a shoe made of nails will not do the job. This is because the tine or nail simply pushes the soil apart to make a small gap. Give it a day of so and a touch or rain, and the soil will expand back into place rendering the work (you have just previously done) useless!

NOT ENOUGH WATER!

This may sound at odds with the previous statement but there is some sense to it- even though it may not be immediately obvious.

When lawns are left to fend for themselves over hot dry summers, they will tend to thin out and brown off.

Unfortunately, these gaps within the turf can be all that is required for dormant mosses and their spores to take off.

All you need to do is wait for the autumn rains to arrive for your moss to take a clear advantage over these weakened areas. With that in mind - water you lawn!

THIN, SHALLOW SOILS

If your turf or grass seed was grown on soil that is less than four to five inches deep, it is not considered deep enough to grow and maintain a healthy, vigorous lawn. Of all the environmental conditions that can have a detrimental effect on your lawn, this is probably the one that is the most difficult to deal with. Unless you are prepared to remove your turf and start again (with the addition of a few more inches of topsoil) it is probably going to take a few years to deal with. Why? Because other than periodically brushing thin layers of topsoil on to your existing turf there is not much else you can do.

As mentioned before, the better condition your grass is, the better it will be at fending off moss.

ACIDIC SOILS

Put simply, lawn grass does not care for acidic soil whereas moss will happily grow to its hearts content.

In order to be sure that soil acidity is a factor you will need to carry out a soil test to assess the acidity of the soil.

If your soil is indeed acidic then it is likely in need of adjustment.

In order to rebalanced the soil, lime can be applied in the autumn.


CUTTING YOUR LAWN TOO SHORT

This is quite possibly one of most common reasons as to why moss is allowed to gain an advantage in lawns. Cutting your lawn as short as possible, may well make your grass look amazing but over time the constant removal of healthy growth will tire the grass and leave it in a weakened condition. As I am sure you know by now, a weakened lawn will allow moss to take advantage and establish itself.